Monthly Archives: May 2021

Writers Who Haunt Their Readers

The steps between thoughts must be cut shallow to travel. Several years ago I ran a free writing course, some of it I posted here. Although I have taught before I have no formal qualifications to teach, so I should probably shut up. Still, I thought I might periodically add writing thoughts and notes on […]

How It All Fell Down

My father, who was a scientist, always told me that he preferred American science textbooks to British ones because of their clarity and simplicity. It allowed them to communicate ideas more easily. A few of his colleagues were snobbish; ‘They write in baby talk’, said one. My father felt that the style didn’t matter if […]

Press Clippings From Hell No.2

  ‘How did we get here from there?’ someone asked me in all seriousness. My 30-year collection of press clippings, kept to remind me of the context in which I wrote certain stories, highlights that slippery path… There’s a plastic George W Bush toy that spouts some of his more scrambled public statements. Play them […]

Missed In Translation Part 2

‘The Passenger’ by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz (passim) from Pushkin Press in the UK, has been translated clearly and concisely to echo its original German by a US translator, and I had to keep stepping over what were for me jarring Americanisms – ‘gotten’, train station’, ‘she wrote me’, etc – minor inconveniences when set against […]

Missed In Translation Part 1

What do Korean gangsters have to do with Madame Bovary? Their stories change according to who translates them into English. Translator Lydia Davis points out that she doesn’t have to enjoy what she’s translating; she does not care for Madame Bovary as a book or a character, but concentrates on accurately reflecting the author’s prose […]

Will The Thrill Of Going Out Go Out?

A 1920s advertisement had a headline that began; ‘If you go out these days – and who doesn’t? you’ll want to enjoy…’ The idea of ‘going out’ is a peculiarly complex one for Londoners, attached to the idea of being entertained for the evening. It is inextricably woven with sex and drink, bad behaviour and […]

There’s Not Always A Word For It

  A letter reaches me from reader John Healey in South Australia who has twigged one of the longest-running games I’ve been playing in my novels. My love of esoteric language has occasionally encouraged me to add rare words, and to sometimes make them up. I figured that if Billy Shakespeare could invent over 1,700 […]

In The Earth: The Answer Lies In The Soil

Following on from the last column about cerebral scares, here’s something new in the folk horror genre to catch. Ben Wheatley is incapable of making a dull film but he comes dangerously close to self-parody with ‘In The Earth’, which will either kill off the fashionable folk-horror cycle for a while or encourage a further […]

The Scared Brain: Favourite Cerebral Scares

Considering I’ve written some 300 short stories in the genre of the fantastic, I feel that stories in which one’s inner doubts and fears are made irrefutably solid is the bravest choice to make aesthetically. Psychological stories achieve a unique level of catharsis but shocking images must be yoked within the service of powerful ideas. The […]

Uncultured 2: What’s On My Cult Radar

  ‘The Passenger’ by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz There’s a big world of stories out there, and I’m drawn to expansive world imprints like Pushkin Press. I discovered the collected novels of Stefan Zweig at Pushkin, along with unfamiliar story collections from Gogol and Chekhov. Bringing together my twin obsessions, they also publish ‘Walter Presents’ novels […]